While both books are about photography they could not be more different in tone or focus or era. The first is a biographical fiction written with the prose of a poet or a romantic or a photographer. Paris in the 1800's is seen through light angled scenes and colors and scents that makes it easy for me to think I am there. The city is dirty and ugly, marred by revolution and class separation, but still filled with lovers and artists and lamplight. The fictional theme of the book is Daguerre's search for the love of his life at the end of his life while becoming mentally compromised by the cloud of mercury poisoning from his years of photographic work. While it is fictional, it is done very consistently. A series of nude photos are taken by Daguerre of an important figure in his life and we see how he decides to pose them and why and how photography began to change the society. He asks one elderly woman whether she wants to have a daguerreotype made of her and she scolds photographers for trying to capture "death." It is a frightening new technology and considered as a sin among many religious people at that time.
Daguerre talks in the book about how the person changes the minute the camera lens is upon them, and therefore, it is impossible to get an honest essence of the person in a picture. At that time a person may have to sit for several minutes in front of the camera, and candid shots were unknown.
In the second book I am only 30 percent through the 300+ pages. It is a discussion of the truth of photography and the accuracy of interpretation of a photograph by others when viewed years later. The writing is a bit tedious and forces the reader to question almost everything in what we see and how we come to conclusions about what we see. "We may know the order of the photographs but that doesn't mean we know whether they were authentic or deliberately posed." This struck me as certainly important today with the magic of digital painting. Some of you may remember the photo of the dusty and bloody Syrian boy sitting shocked in an orange ambulance chair after an Assad/Russian bombing of his home. Assad claims the photo was fake, even though witnesses attest to its reality. There are so many photos of children in pain and maimed after the war, one wonders why the Syrian President claims this one was fake? Is it because it truly captures the emotional horror of this war?
This taken from Wikipedia on the truth of photography: "Charles Peirce's term 'indexicality' refers to the physical relationship between the object photographed and the resulting image. Paul Levinson emphasizes the ability of photography to capture or reflect "a literal energy configuration from the real world" through a chemical process. Light sensitive emulsion on the photographic negative is transformed by light passing through the lens and diaphragm of a camera. Levinson relates this characteristic of the photograph to its objectivity and reliability, echoing Andre Bazin's belief that photography is free from the "sin" of subjectivity." So much is covered in the preceding sentences that one could talk all night about it.
Another person who writes about photography, "Sontag also describes the inability of a photograph to capture enough information about its subject to be considered a representation of reality. She states, "The camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses…only what which narrates can make us understand."" This is clear to me as I frequently frame the photo to leave out distracting or extraneous stuff and may later photoshop to erase it.
There are lots of photos on social media sites where celebrities state one thing or another about life or politics. Almost all of them are fake, their images being used without their permission. There are other photos that have clearly been enhanced with romantic mist or fake snow or something to make them softer and more beautiful than the original.
This seems to be a theme these days. Viewers are being duped everywhere. How do you know something that was shown is real or not? You can search online for testing fake news and a number of sites will come up with guidelines. Factcheck.org and Snopes are reliable sources for analyzing something written or said, but they do not usually focus on photos. You can find a reverse source search for some photos here. This is sometimes used by photographers to see if their image has been stolen and used elsewhere.
Fake stuff has been around for a long time and will be around, perhaps forever. (Apologies for my very poor photoshopping of the image above. I was too lazy, and perhaps too low on technique, to present something more believable.